The House Energy and Commerce Committee is poised to mark up a long-stalled mental health bill on Wednesday, which lead sponsor Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) thinks could be brought swiftly to the House floor.
“I think it’s going to come, we just have to work towards a date,” he told reporters Tuesday after a press conference to rally support for the bill. “I don’t want this to languish over the summer. I don’t want anybody to have to face another tragedy, whether it’s just a single tragedy in their family or a mass tragedy, while Congress is waiting.”
Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have expressed support for the bill, he said. Ryan pointed to the bill as a way to curb gun violence early on in his speakership.
The bill has been re-worked since it was last discussed at a lengthy November committee hearing to bring Democrats on board, notably changing some of the provisions related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
Murphy said even with the changes offered to bring Democrats on board, the bill would make it easier for caregivers to coordinate care.
The bill will remain budget neutral, Murphy said. He’s spoken with Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who leads the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, but funding for the bill won’t come until the appropriations process for fiscal year 2018, Murphy said.
“[Cole’s] got a lot of things to juggle,” Murphy said. “This bill will pass, and a lot of it won’t kick in until next year anyways, so we’ll be looking at next year’s appropriations, but a lot of authorizations this year.”
“But there’s still other things that are going to happen right away with this,” he added. That includes a new assistant secretary position at the Department of Health and Human Services focused on mental health and substance use disorders and more oversight over the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.